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Industrial Noise Control Measure

In industrial places that are normally full of machineries or mechanical systems, noise is definitely inevitable, and in fact, very loud. This can sometimes be harmful to the workers hence causing occupational health and safety hazard. Therefore, in this article, we will look into noise control measures that can be used to overcome industrial noise in workplace.

Noise sources

Let’s begin with a recap on how noise is being produced:

Sound in general, is produced by vibration, or sometimes due to aerodynamic systems. Vibration-induced noises can be caused by multiple reasons, for example:

  • Mechanical shocks and friction between machinery parts like hammering, rotating gears, bearings, cutting tools etc.
  • Moving parts that are off-balanced
  • Vibration of large and heavy structures

As for aerodynamic noises, they are caused by air or fluid flows through pipes, fans, or pressure drops in air distribution systems as well. Typical examples of aerodynamic noise sources are:

  • Steam released through exhaust valves
  • Fans
  • Combustion motors
  • Aircraft jets
  • Turbulent fluid flow through pipes

Steps to control noise in workplace

To properly control the noise in the workplace, these steps should be carried out:

  1. Identify the sound sources (i.e., vibrating sources or aerodynamic flow)
  2. Identify the noise path from source to worker
  3. Determine the sound level of each source
  4. Determine the relative contribution to the excessive noise of each source and proceed to rank the sources accordingly. The dominant source should always be prioritised and controlled first in order to obtain significant noise attenuation.
  5. Understand the acceptable exposure limits as written in the health and safety legislation and find out the necessary sound reduction.
  6. Find out solutions while taking the degree of sound attenuation, operation, productivity restrains and cost into consideration.

To reduce exposure to noise

In general, noise exposure can be reduced by the elimination of noise source if possible, otherwise substitution of source with a quieter one or the application of engineering modifications works too.

The most effective way to minimise the exposure of noise is to engineer it out at the very beginning: the design stage. It is suggested to always choose equipment features that can reduce noise level to an acceptable level. For new installations, again select a quiet equipment, and make sure to have a procurement policy that opts for using quiet equipment, and finally eliminate any design flaws that may lead to noise amplification.

Engineering modifications refer to changes that can affect the source, or the sound path. This is usually the preferred solution for noise control in already-established workplaces (those without noise protection measures during design stage). This is because engineering modifications are known to be more cost effective, especially to control the noise at the source than along the path.

Administrative controls and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) are also effective as measures of noise control applicable on workers themselves. A combination of both may be taken into consideration when the noise exposure would not justify the implementation of engineering solutions that are more expensive. However, it is important to always note that administrative control and PPE may not be as effective as implementing engineering noise control during the starting stage or modifications of sound path. Therefore, they should be categorised as the last resort.

Engineering solutions to reduce noise

Different solutions can be applied for vibration-induced noise and aerodynamic-noise.

For vibration-induced noise, the key point is to reduce the amount of vibration at the source. The typical solutions include modification of the energy source such as lowering the rotating speed of fans, or reducing the impact force of hitting tools etc. Adding damping materials onto vibrating surfaces due to mechanical forces can help to reduce vibrational effects too, especially for thin structures. To prevent unwanted damage due to friction or impact, the damping material may be sandwiched between the surface of equipment and another material that is resistant to abrasion. This treatment is called the constraint layer treatment.

Other methods to reduce vibration-induced noise include minimising gaps in machine guards and cover them with acoustic-absorbent material, replacing metal parts with plastic parts whenever possible, and replacing motors with quieter ones.

On the other hand, to treat aerodynamic-induced noise, specialists recommended to implement engineering practices that are capable of reducing noise associated with unstable fluid flow, for example minimising fluid velocity, increasing pipe diameter or minimising turbulence by utilising large and low speed fans with curved blades.

Besides those mentioned above, there are also passive noise control measures that can be used. These include using enclosures and isolations by storing noisy equipment in enclosed spaces/rooms that have special acoustic features like isolation, louvres or sealings. Installations of acoustic barriers (sound-absorbing panels) in workplaces, or silencers inside ducts and exhausts works well in attenuating unwanted noise too.

General measures to keep in mind

Finally, here are some general methods that one can take to ensure that workplace noise is under controlled.

Regular maintenance should always be performed, where the focus should be on identifying and replacing any worn-off or loose parts, lubricating any moving parts, and make sure that the rotating equipment does not get off balance to avoid vibration-induced noise.

Noisy processes should be taken note about and be substituted with quieter ones. Sound reverberation in the room should be reduced. Reverberation is when sound produced in an enclosure hits reflective surfaces and reflects back into the room in addition to the original noise paths. In some cases, reverberated sounds may dominate the original sound. A good method to help in such conditions will be to add padding onto the reflective surfaces with sound absorbing materials so that noise level can be reduced. Another way will be to arrange the equipment in the room so that they are not too close to too many reflective structures.

Conclusion

In conclusion, always take measures to identify the sound sources in the industrial workplace and find out suitable ways to solve the noise issues to achieve noise limits in accordance with exposure limits set in the health and safety legislation published by the local authorities. It is utmost important to obey the noise exposure limits to ensure the hearing health of workers in the workplace.

Reference

https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/noise_control.html

https://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/noise10.pdf

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Industrial

Hotel Room Acoustics – how noise affects a person’s stay in the hotel

Hotel Room Acoustics – how noise affects a person’s stay in the hotel

Hotels have been playing an important role during the current pandemic. In certain countries, the local governments have announced that it is compulsory for those entering the country from overseas to carry out hotel quarantine. Taking Malaysia as an example, travellers entering the country regardless from any country are required to undergo hotel quarantine for up to 10 days (as of January 2021), in which the local authorities will arrange the rooms for them unless the travellers opted for Premium Package which of course, costs higher than the standard ones. Travellers will have to take COVID tests in between to ensure that they are COVID-negative and isolating them in the hotels will make sure that there will not be the possibility of spreading the virus to the public since all travellers should be taken as potential risk carrier.

Hotel room comfort

Many may be wondering: How is the cleanliness of the room? Are the meals provided good? What about the Wi-Fi strength there?

But there is one thing that people sometimes forget about: Noise. From the study done by the J.D. Power North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Survey, it has been consistently shown that complaints on noise issues are significantly under-reported, and hardly being resolved in the end (Simonsen, 2019). Imagine living in a confined space for more than 10 days, where you need to experience constant noise coming from your neighbours, or from outside the room like traffic or construction noise, how will you feel? Looking at some hotel review posts in the Malaysia Quarantine Support Group (MQSG) created to aid travellers coming into Malaysia, there seem to be numerous posts complaining about noise nuisance during their quarantine period. The typical problems faced by members include:

  1. Traffic noise – hotel is located next to busy road
  2. Construction noise in the day from nearby sites
  3. Loud neighbours – speaking loudly especially at sleeping hours

To be exact, these are the similar nuisance one would experience in residential houses.

For short term stays, these may not be the main concern, but it is a totally different case for a quarantine. Unreasonable amount of noise daily for long term, especially after a tired flight and transition at the airport, will lead to unwanted circumstances on a person’s health (physically and mentally).

Noise and Sleep Disturbance

For people who are extremely sensitive to noise, the first thing that can be observed will be that they cannot sleep or even rest well. This will result in sleep deficiency, which slowly drains off the energy to carry out daily tasks. According to Hume, many from the research field claimed that sleep disturbance caused by environmental noise has the most detrimental effect to health. Having an undisturbed night of sleep is even taken to be a fundamental rights and prerequisite to ensure continued health and well-being (Hume, 2010). Hume mentioned that noise pollution can be described as the “modern unseen plague” which may interfere with cognitive processes hence disturbing sleep quality.

To overcome the problem of noise affecting sleep quality, the World Health Organization (WHO – European Office) has brought in experts with relevant documents in recent years to establish the Night Noise Guidelines for Europe. The guidelines contain the latest reviews of noise disturbance and the potential risk to human health. Below are the four ranges of continuous external sound level at night, relating night noise and the populations’ health effects:

<30 dB – no substantial biological effects could normally be expected

30-40 dB – primary effects on sleep start to emerge and adverse effects in vulnerable groups

40-55 dB – sharp increase in adverse health effects while vulnerable groups become severely affected

>55dB – adverse health effects occur frequently with high percentage of the population highly annoyed

These guidelines help to understand the effect of noise on sleep, although a large extent of this topic still relies on fully understanding the fundamentals of the nature of sleep.

Acoustics Solutions for Hotels

As mentioned in the previous sections, the noise complaints for hotel rooms mainly cover traffic noise, noise from neighbours and construction noise. Since sound travels in wave forms, soundproofing will be one of the best concepts to act as a barrier that can effectively stop the sound waves from entering a room from outside.

Typically, there are four methods to achieve the soundproofing effect for hotel rooms (SoundGuard, 2019):

  • Absorption – adding sound insulating materials such as mineral wool or fiberglass for sound absorption, thus preventing sound from passing through
  • Damping – soundwaves often cause vibrations between air particles. Damping helps in reducing or eliminating the vibrational effects by acting as a barrier that does not vibrate
  • Decoupling – In layman terms, this also means separating the walls by adding an insulation layer between the two layers of drywall.
  • Mass – Utilizing thicker, heavier, or denser materials to block sound

While choosing the right material for insulation, it is important to take note on the Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. The STC rating defines the effectiveness of materials in attenuating airborne sound. The lower the STC rating, the less sound that can be effectively blocked. Therefore, to achieve good insulation results, it is better to use a material with higher STC value.

When should you implement acoustical solutions?

Ideally, it is best to start from the very beginning, which is during the project planning stage (yes, before you even start building it!). Quoting a line said by Scott Rosenberg, the president of Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, and the principal with HVS Design, “You have to think about the inside walls like they’re on the outside” (Fox, 2018). This was said for atrium style hotels which are normally structured like giant echo chambers, where noise from the lobby may travel up to the penthouse suite due to the structure. In the planning stage, allocating which part of the hotel goes where is also crucial to make sure you keep sounds in the right places, and nowhere else. For example, it is important to locate the facilities like gyms, pub, or even spa strategically so that the noise from these places will not affect the guests staying in the hotel rooms. If you really must put them above/below rooms, make sure to use walls or ceilings that are properly insulated.
For existing hotels, another good time to improve the acoustics of the hotel will be during renovation periods. Since you took the step to upgrade your hotel looks and structure, why not consider soundproofing as well? It will definitely help to raise the customers’ satisfaction during their stay.
The areas that can be considered for hotel soundproofing during renovation include:
• Floors – adding soundproofing underlay
• Ceilings – using decoupling methods (dual-layered drywall)
• Doors – changing to solid-core heavy doors with seals
• Walls – adding insulation between walls / use soundproofing paint

 

How do you know if your hotel needs acoustical improvements?

Although some may only start treating the problem after getting significant complaints from customers, hotel owners should consider taking the initiative to find out the noise condition in the building. A good start will be to carry out noise measurement tests to monitor the condition in each room. Having noise data from the measurements will help you understand what the situation is, and how you should resolve them. This is where an acoustics consultant should step in.
It is suggested to consult the acoustics specialists to get the most suitable solution for your case, because not all solutions can be applicable for all conditions. Acoustics consultants can help you to analyse the condition by using methods like indoor noise mapping, material insulation calculations and even tiny suggestions like adding certain types of furniture to aid sound absorption in the room itself.


Effects of Acoustics Improvement to the Hotel

It is proven that by enhancing the acoustics of hotels, business can be improved too. For example, Premier Inn in the UK has pioneered the new design of “floating bedroom” in 2011 at its hotel in Leicester Square. This new design allowed the hotel to resolve the environmental noise and the noise coming up from the nightclub on the ground floor. Premier Inn had also changed their focus from cost to customers’ sleep quality, which enabled them to become one of the best-rated hotels in London (Simonsen, 2019). Thus, the hotels’ business and reputation will strongly improve by taking care of the noise aspects.
Now, back to the starting topic of this article. Hotels are no longer only used as the accommodations for vacations or business trips. Hotels play an important part during this pandemic, being the quarantine centres in many countries. Therefore, it is important to ensure the customers’ (or those under quarantine) comfort during their stay, voluntarily or not. Their reviews make a lot of difference, which will highly impact a hotel’s image to the public. Most importantly, good, soundproofed room means less noise, resulting in better living and sleep quality. Hence, hotel owners are urged to investigate the acoustics aspects of their property, for themselves, and for the customers.


References

Fox, J. T. (2018, July 17). Careful hotel design keeps noise in check. Retrieved February 4, 2021, from Hotel Management: https://www.hotelmanagement.net/design/careful-hotel-design-keeps-noise-check


Hume, K. (2010). Sleep disturbance due to noise: Current issues and future research. Noise Health, 12(47), 70-76. Retrieved February 2, 2021, from https://www.noiseandhealth.org/article.asp?issn=1463-1741;year=2010;volume=12;issue=47;spage=70;epage=76;aulast=Hume


Simonsen, J. (2019, June 20). Why and how to reduce noise in hotel rooms. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from Rockwool: https://www.rockwool.com/group/advice-and-inspiration/blog/why-and-how-to-reduce-noise-in-hotel-rooms/


SoundGuard. (2019). Hotel Sound Reduction – How to Soundproof a Hotel Room. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from SoundGuard: https://soundguard.io/hotel-sound-reduction-soundproof-hotel-room/

Categories
Asia Noise News Environment

Noise in Malaysia

What Covid-19 did to Malaysia

2020 has been a year full of ups and downs. One big thing that affected, in fact, is still affecting the whole world is undeniably the Covid-19 pandemic. No doubt that the pandemic has caused a lot of downhills in the development of many aspects, like economy and social, but there is one thing that have shown obvious positive sign during this situation: the environmental change.

Figure 1 A picture showing the clearer skies in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia (Photos: Filepic).

According to a Malaysian news report by Ming Teoh from The Star, the movement control order (MCO) that was carried out to tackle the Covid-19 spread in Malaysia has brought positive environmental impacts to the country (Teoh, 2020). People were amazed by the clean rivers, clear blue skies and the recovery of nature and wildlife. Of course, due to the MCO where a lot of human activities were restricted, the streets and urban roads have been very quiet as compared to the usual noise level. The improved noise quality resulted in lower noise pollution, which made the sounds of the fauna more apparent. But once everyone gets back to normal life when the MCO is lifted, how long can this positive environmental situation last? Will there be enough time for the environment to heal properly?

The Department of Environment (DOE), Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), Malaysia

The Department of Environment (DOE) from the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) of Malaysia have been very concerned about this issue all the while, specifically on the noise quality of the country. They have constantly been updating the guidelines to handle noise or vibration for various applications, for example vehicle-noise, ambient noise, or outdoor noise sources in the environment. In one of the published guidelines for environmental noise limits and control (2009), the DOE have specified a table showing the permissible sound levels for different applications, shown in Table 1 as one of the examples from the guidelines (Air & Noise, 2019). 

Table 1 An example of the permissible sound levels listed in the guidelines published by the DOE.

The permissible sound levels differ by the applications (i.e. use of land, human density) and the different times of the day, to ensure that the circumstances of various conditions are taken into account during the sound level measurements. For instance, the ambient noise limits are set such that it is an absolute limit based on the average level of noise (which should not be exceeded in a specified period), or in accordance with a relative limit based on the permitted increase in noise level with respect to the background level. It is mentioned that the limits should always be consistent with the environmental noise climate of the location. The rest of the noise limit schedules listed in the guidelines include those for land use, road traffic, railway/transit trains, construction, and maintenance, which are the main sources of outdoor noise in the country. 

Besides that, the report also covers guidelines on planning process, noise impact assessments, quantifying of noise disturbance, and guidance in environmental noise mitigation through planning and control. These are ideally applied in new and existing projects planning, in which the projects can cover anything that involves noise, as a potential concern or needed to be measured and assessed. This is a very imperative measure from the DOE to enforce noise control in the country to work on controlling the noise impact of the relevant applications, thus overcoming the noise pollution in Malaysia. With these actions being taken and followed, the goal to maintaining a better noise quality in the country can be achieved in near future.

Written by:

Khei Yinn Seow

Mechanical Engineer

Geonoise Malaysia

khei@geonoise.asia 

References:

Air & Noise, P. S. C. S., 2019. Guidelines for Environmental Noise Limits and Control (Third Edition), Putrajaya: Department of Environment Malaysia.

Teoh, M., 2020. Blue skies, less waste: Covid-19 and the MCO’s effects on the environment., s.l.: The Star.